NBA - SOUTHEAST
Arena: State Farm Arena
Coach: Nate McMillan
2022-2023 TEAM LEADERS
Atlanta Hawks Summary
The Atlanta Hawks franchise has been in professional basketball since the 1946-47 season, with multiple homes over the years. The team has been in Atlanta since the 1968-69 campaign but has struggled to put together any consistent success in the postseason.
The 2021-22 squad is looking to follow up on its trip to the Eastern Conference finals in the 2021 postseason, as the team came up just short of its first NBA Finals appearance since the 1960-61 season, when they were based in St. Louis.
With a rising star in Trae Young and a solid cast around him, there is hope that the 2021 playoff run won’t be the last for a while.
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Atlanta Hawks History
The current Atlanta Hawks franchise was formed as the Buffalo Bisons and Tri-Cities Blackhawks in the 1946-47 season in the National Basketball League. After being part of the original NBA, the team became the Hawks and moved to Milwaukee for four seasons before starting a stint in St. Louis in 1955-56.
The St. Louis years ended up being the most successful of the franchise’s history to this point, with Bob Pettit helping the team to four NBA Finals appearances in five seasons, including the only NBA title in team history in 1958. Pettit was named the league’s MVP twice during that run, though a 1961 Finals loss to the Boston Celtics was the last time the team was in the championship series.
The Hawks moved to Atlanta before the 1968-69 season in the middle of an 11-game streak of postseason berths. Atlanta made several postseason trips over the next few decades, including a string of three straight conference semifinals berths in the 1980s behind the play of All-Star forward Dominique Wilkins.
The team was a perennial playoff contender but failed to get back to the conference finals until 2015, when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept them.
The 2020-21 campaign saw a pair of upset victories in the postseason, over the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, before the team fell to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
2021-22 Key Stats
The Hawks return the same cast that had the terrific run in the playoffs from a season ago in 2021-22, including guard Trae Young, center Clint Capela and forward John Collins. The hope is that the team will continue to grow together in head coach Nate McMillan’s second season at the helm.
Young continues to be the team leader at just 23, showing grit and flair for the dramatic in the postseason that many of the great winners in the league have shown.
The Hawks should be in the mix for the Eastern Conference crown again this season, as they try to make a second straight trip to the conference finals for the first time since moving to Atlanta.
Championships Won by the Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks franchise has won one NBA title, taking the 1957-58 championship by defeating the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. It was part of a string of four conference titles in five seasons for the Hawks, who haven’t been back to play for the championship since.
Atlanta has won 12 division titles over the years, including two in the Southeast Division, which was created when the league realigned before the 2004-05 season. The Hawks won the division title in 2014-15 with the best record in the Eastern Conference on the way to the conference finals, where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.
The Hawks won the Southeast Division again in 2020-21 after finishing last in the division for three straight seasons. Atlanta also won the Central Division title three times and the Western Division seven times.
Important Team Events
The selection of forward Bob Pettit with the No. 2 pick in the 1954 NBA Draft set the tone for the most significant winning era for the Hawks franchise. Pettit helped the team to four NBA Finals appearances and one NBA title, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1955 and NBA MVP honors in 1956 and 1959.
While the drafting of Dominique Wilkins with the No. 3 pick in the 1982 NBA Draft didn’t have as much of an impact on the team’s success, Atlanta reaped the benefits of the “Human Highlight Reel” for many seasons. With his exciting scoring and dunking, Wilkins helped Atlanta become a perennial playoff team and title contender.
Wilkins’ departure was also one of the biggest events in team history, as it came during one of the most successful seasons in team history. Wilkins and the Hawks were leading the Eastern Conference standings, with Wilkins leading the team in scoring. Still, Atlanta decided to deal the future free agent at the trade deadline, getting Danny Manning from the Los Angeles Clippers.
It is still the only time in NBA history that a team dealt its leading scorer after the All-Star break despite being atop the conference standings. The Hawks were 36-16 at the time of the trade but lost in the conference semifinals that season.
While it looks better now, the decision to trade for the rights to Trae Young on draft night in 2018 was controversial, as the team gave up the draft rights to Luka Doncic in the process. Both players have been high-scoring All-Stars in the seasons that have followed, with Young helping the Hawks to greater team success with the playoff run in 2020-21,
But there are some that wonder how Doncic would have fit with Atlanta.
The greatest player in Hawks franchise history wasn’t seen by many of the team’s greatest fans, as Bob Pettit’s career spanned from 1954 to 1965. Pettit averaged 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game over his 11 years with the club, earning two league MVP awards, Rookie of the Year in 1955, and 10 first-team All-NBA selections.
Pettit also helped the Hawks to their only NBA title and three other appearances in the NBA Finals.
Dominique Wilkins did everything for the Hawks franchise other than bringing the team a championship. The all-time leading scorer in the team’s history, Wilkins would sometimes single-handedly try to win games, including a classic playoff shootout with Boston’s Larry Bird.
Wilkins’ dunks were legendary, but he was also a solid rebounder and defender, averaging 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals over his Hawks career.
Speaking of defense, center Dikembe Mutombo was one of the league’s best at blocking shots, and over his five-year Atlanta career, he averaged 3.8 blocks per game. Mutombo won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award twice with Atlanta and led the league in rebounding in 1999-2000 with 14.1 per game.
Atlanta has had a long list of great head coaches, with six different Hawks coaches earning NBA Coach of the Year honors while coaching the franchise. Mike Fratello won the award in 1985-86 and is second on the all-time wins list for Hawks coaches with 324 over seven seasons.
Fratello got the team to the postseason five times in his seven years on the sideline, including three straight appearances in the conference semifinals.
Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens played for the Hawks when they were in St. Louis from 1960-61 to 1967-68, then returned as the franchise’s coach for the 1993-94 season. Wilkens won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in his first season as the Hawks coach and finished with 310 regular-season victories over seven seasons, leading the team to the postseason in the first six of those seven campaigns.
Richie Guerin was at the helm – and on the court – for some of the greatest teams in Hawks history, serving as player/coach from 1964-65 to 1967-68 before moving to just coaching duties before the 1968-69 season.
Guerin was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1967-68 and racked up 327 regular-season wins over his span as player/coach and coach of the franchise.
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Dominique Wilkins scored 23,292 points over his 11-plus seasons with the Hawks, the most in franchise history.
Bob Pettit won the NBA MVP award twice while playing for the Hawks in 1955-56 and 1958-59.
The Hawks have had just one player win the league’s Rookie of the Year award: Bob Pettit in 1954-55.
Richie Guerin won 327 regular-season games in his eight seasons as the player/coach and coach of the Hawks, the most in franchise history.
The Hawks have selected first in the NBA Draft three times, taking Mark Workman (1952), Dick Ricketts (1955), and David Thompson (1975).